Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2023 Kate Carlyle. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. For all other uses, please contact the copyright holder.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Linguistics Department

First Advisor

Kirby Conrod


French, like other Romance languages, operates on a largely binary morphological gender system, leading to many potential linguistic complications when it is used to index social genders that fall outside of said binary (Michele 2016, Kaplan 2022). Certain morphosyntactic features of French specifically make accomplishing many non-binary (NB) marking strategies in speech all the more challenging. This paper presents an interview-based study conducted with 7 L1 French speakers living in France to assess what strategies are most commonly used in practice to describe a non-binary referent in speech. Through an elicitation exercise that prompted speakers to describe various stick figure-based images marked as having masculine, feminine, and non-binary gender, this study found that relative to descriptions of binarily marked figures, descriptions of non-binary figures had a higher frequency of constructions that avoid gender marking in speech and that employ impersonal subjects to contain gender marking to the grammatical level. These findings align with strategies proposed by Knisley (2022) and indicate that even to those largely unfamiliar with potential strategies for NB language, there are comprehensible and accessible strategies available to speakers that make use of the linguistic tools they already have at hand.

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Linguistics Commons